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Life & Work with Alexander Drapinski

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alexander Drapinski.

Hi Alexander, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I grew up in a city about fifteen minutes outside of Boston and started dancing at the age of two at a dance studio called Agnes Strecker Dance Studio. Even though I was dancing at two, I truly didn’t start my training until I was eighteen, where I went to Dean College in Franklin, MA, to receive a bachelor’s of arts degree. I remember going to college thinking I was great and prepared for the world of dance, but I was extremely wrong. I stuck the fun hip hop and tap classes most of the time. I took ballet and jazz classes off and on, but I don’t think I paid that much attention to my teachers, so I put myself in an uncomfortable situation going to college for dance. Thankfully Dean College’s dance program taught me everything I needed to know to pursue this and helped my technique greatly.

At Dean College, they trained me in subjects such as anatomy, dance on film, kinesiology, pedagogy, different dance techniques, and my favorite class, dance composition. I fell in love with the process of choreographing by watching my dance professors teach and explain their choreography. They were using technical movement but combining it with life experience, which I know sounds cliché, but it assisted my thought process on how organically relatable you make a movement. It truly brought new insight to developing work. I used a lot of their methods while I choreographed in student-organized showcases, but it wasn’t until my senior year where I decided to choreography a solo titled “From My Book” where I became as vulnerable as I could be. I decided to use my insecurities and what I consider my flaws in constructing a piece where I danced to my spoken word to tell the world what I hate about myself. It wasn’t for attention, and honestly, I did not care what the audience thought was good or bad. It was my first work that I did for myself and allowed the audience to just watch and interrupt how they want. I was a lucky artist who was hired immediately after college for my first job on a dance company.

The company’s name was “Lostwax: The Multimedia Dance,” and it was under the direction of Jamir Jewett. This dance company was extremely unique because it combined dance with video projections. I got the opportunity to travel to Providence, RI, Boston, MA, Tulsa, OK, Pittsburg, PA, and Sarasota, FL. I also performed on a dance company named “Impact Dance Company” under the direction of Meghan McCaffery, Lorraine Chapman –The Company, under the direction of Lorraine Chapman, and Prometheus Dance, under the direction of Diane Arvanites & Tommy Neblett. The favorite part of my dance career had to be performing on all of these dance companies. On these companies I met so many other wonderful artists and friends, learned new dance techniques, and learned new ways to choreograph. Even though I was teaching dance techniques such as hip hop, conditioning, contemporary, and tap to students all over the Greater Boston area, I wanted to share my art form in a different way.

So I started my own pre-professional dance program called “Perceptions – The Concert Dance Experience,” where I trained high school students on professionalism in the dance world. The program was specifically for young dance students who want to possibly pursue dance as a career. I trained them as the dance companies I performed on trained me while also hiring guest artist to teach the students in subjects such as nutrition, physical therapy, dance therapy, cosmetics, and more to give a bit more insight on the options you can take within the world of dance. You don’t need to be a performer to make it in this industry, there are so many other options to take, and recreational dance studios don’t have the time to show students all of them because they are the ones training their technique. Sadly, I had to close my dance program on its fourth year. I uprooted my life to Orlando, Florida for the love of my life. My partner got a job as an Imagineer at Walt Disney World and I definitely was not going to get in the way of that incredible experience. Although it was sad to let the program go, it was the right thing to do at the time. I just didn’t know it then. I did try running the program from Florida, but unfortunately, it was just too hard. But in Orlando Florida, there was a new adventure for me. it just took me some time to find it.

I moved to Orlando and auditioned for a few things. Everyone’s dream was to work at Disney, but my goal was to simply find a dancer job that provided health insurance, and I found exactly that. After two months of living in Orlando, I landed a contract at Universal Studios in their Superstar Parade. I am not an entertainer, but I was excited to try something new. Unfortunately, on the morning of my third day of rehearsals, I fully ruptured my Achilles in my left ankle was out for the following ten months. It was devastating that I didn’t get to finish the rehearsal process because I was brand new; I felt extremely out of the loop. During this time, I got the chance to learn different skills in the parade, such as Escort and Lead, which overall helped me have a better understanding of daily operations. Even though this injury put a temporary stop on my career for a bit, I would not have changed the experience and friends I gained from it all. Working at Universal Studios is a pleasure and being a dance captain for some units allows me to use some of the leadership skills that I had used in Boston. I do love my job but not as much as much as I love my new formed dance company.

I am now in Season two of my dance Company called “Drapinski Dance Company,” and it has been a great time. I started the company in 2019 and I have grown so much in the past two years. I started with five dancers to help me start to company, and then I moved to thirteen for my first season, and now I have 25 dancers who perform for me. And not only do I have a professional company, I am blessed to have started an apprentice dance company with six high school students to train under me just like I did in Boston. Starting the dance company wasn’t the easiest, but honestly, it has been an adventure that I am extremely grateful to be on.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I think the hardest thing for me in my career was the move to Orlando. It is hard not to brag about my successes during my time in Boston. Going to college landed me a job on my first dance company. Then one company allowed me to meet people who hired me for their independent projects where I met more people at performances who asked me to teach at their dance studios who then recommended me for other dance companies. It was great that one thing just lead to another. But to move to a new city in a completely new state where you know only one person in a different field was hard. Clearly, my passion is to dance and to create movement and for two to three months, I was not doing that. I was applying for work and auditioning for work; I almost worked at Publix’s deli department to pay the bills. You do what you have to do to get by. Publix is a great company, but I am sure they wouldn’t let me dance around their kitchens. I have to say those two to three months looking for work was extremely rough and then to top it all off, after receiving a great job and finally meeting new people in my field, I then injure myself for ten months and saw none of them nor danced. It took some time to rebuild my career as well as my reputation in the dance community. It has been a long five years in the making of doing just that.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
I am most proud of my dance company, Drapinski Dance Company (DDC). I think what I have created has put all of my life experiences into one bucket for other professional and now pre-professional artists. From the outside, we do look like an ordinary dance company who just creates work to perform; but we are way more than that. My goal is to provide an opportunity in any way that I can. Not only does DDC provides the obvious opportunity for artists to perform and create work with me but we also provide a performance opportunity for independent artists and dance organizations to create work to perform in our showcase series titled: The Catharsis Series. This series happens twice a year to allow many artists in the Orlando dance community to create cathartic work that allows artists to release any tension in their lives they might be holding onto. There are very few limits to participate in the series because we want our participating artist to let go and not think about time constraints or content limitations.

The best part about this series is to apply, perform and be involved is completely free. I wanted to have a platform for the Orlando dance community to simply create work without the hassle of finding the finance to do it. At this time Drapinski Dance Company completely covers the cost of the performance and we hope to keep it that way. The ultimate goal of this series is to allow the ticket profits to fund a grant foundation titled “The ARTSHIELD Foundation” to grant funds to artists and young students in need of financial help. There are plenty of grants to go around but not a lot that also allow the free performance opportunity. I truly just want there to be endless opportunities for anything; to dance, to create, to put on your own show, and the list can go on. One of our projects that is in the early stages of its production that I think sets Drapinski Dance Company apart from other companies is a project that plans to use our audience members within our performances. I do not want to say too much about the project but we are extremely excited that we have developed this opportunity to allow our audience to not just be a set of eyes to enjoy the work that we produce but to be a part of the work itself. The project will provide an opportunity to our audience members to contribute their stories and parts of themselves to be in our work. The future of the company is endless, and we are striving to provide as much as we can for others. That is the goal, and we hope to continue to do it.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs, or other resources you think our readers should check out?
Besides the Nike Pro App for yoga classes and the Pokémon Go app to help reduce stress by taking my mind off life, I think the best resource I have read is called The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s an incredibly easy read and as you read the content, you start to think it is all common sense but the book brings clarity to simple things. The book helped me put what matters in front of me and toss all the nonsense I let linger around me. It is a great read; I recommend it to anyone who needs a little help in realigning themselves.

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